Angelina’s Parisian Hot Chocolate for Valentine

Last month in Paris, I met a friend in the late afternoon for hot chocolate at Angelina’s, one of Paris’ most celebrated tearooms. Even though the line to get into to the famous salon took more than half an hour to pass through, the ethereal rich dark chocolate was definitely worth the wait. This month as Valentine’s Day approaches I’ve decided to reproduce the French hot chocolate stateside.

Served in a small pitcher along with a bowl of whipped cream, this French hot chocolate with its silky texture and intense chocolate flavor has been my favorite for years. I first discovered it on a trip to The City of Light back in the 80s. During that visit, I went to Angelina’s several days in a row to sip cups of the concoction while trying to unearth the recipe. A waitress finally revealed that the drink was made with chocolate bars that were broken into Continue reading

Grilled Pimento Cheese Cocktail Sandwiches for Super Bowl!

The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl once again! Against the odds, they pulled out all the stops (or should I say passes and runs!), and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the last minutes of the recent play-off game! Whew! My grown son and my teenage grandson will be stunned to learn that their non-athletic Mom and “Mimi” is so up-to-date on their favorite team!

But rather than keeping track of all the stats and plays of the Super Bowl, I look forward to reading about the down-home fare that fans across America savor while rooting for their hometown teams. Chili, ribs, sausages, burgers–just about anything from the grill–anchor many a table, while salads and baked beans (especially here in New England) play supporting positions. Salivating over this roster of good ideas, I want to offer my own.

This year, I called on my Southern heritage to create mini grilled pimento cheese Continue reading

A Delicious French Stew for a Paris Dinner with Friends

A few days ago, we invited two of my husband’s college students, who are brothers, to come for a home-cooked meal while they were in Paris. Then we learned that their parents were also in town, so we quickly extended the invitation. I had already planned the menu, and had chosen a veal stew with tomatoes and white beans to anchor the meal, a dish that could easily serve six.

In the City of Light, I entertain like my French friends, applying the “cook some, buy some” philosophy. I put most of my effort into the main course and sides, and purchase the rest. For openers, I bought two kinds of olives at a neighboring Sunday marché, and from a local Italian deli I purchased freshly made hummus that I garnished with toasted baguette slices and cherry tomatoes. After the main course, cheeses from a fromagerie were served with Medjool dates, clementines, and thin, crisp nut crackers. For the sweet ending, a tray of pastries–lemon tarts, chocolate ganache sablés, sleek hazelnut and chocolate bars, coconut and pineapple domes—from a near-by patisserie completed the menu.

The Provençal-style veal, tomato, and white bean stew, simmered slowly in wine and Continue reading

A Pot of Soup for Extra Cold Winter Days

Two Facebook friends wrote me this past week to say they were making soups from my cookbooks. Each lives in New England, where temperatures plummeted and blizzard conditions were in effect for several days. Suzanne told me “It was a ribolitta day” for her, referencing a recipe for the well-known Italian vegetable soup that appears in Sunday Soup. Heidi, from Massachusetts, let me know that she was doing a little French country cooking, preparing Onion Soup Gratiné from Soup Nights.

They reminded me that it is indeed soup weather! Even here in Paris where temperatures have reached the 40s and 50s, it’s been rainy, windy, and damp so I’ve reached for the soup pot often.

A favorite potage of mine is Winter Soup from the Chalet, prepared with a mélange of cold Continue reading

Curried Cashews Make a Great Last-Minute Gift from the Kitchen

If, like me, you are running late, but still hoping to make edible gifts for this holiday season, consider these delicious curried cashews with currants. They take only about 30 minutes to assemble, roast, and cool!

I included these nuts at a Holiday Open House cooking class last week, and was thrilled when almost everyone in the packed room said they were planning to prepare them!

These nuts are definitely addictive. Just try eating a mere handful! Seasoned with a tempting blend of both sweet and salty notes, cashews, along with currants, are coated with a maple syrup mixture scented with curry, cardamom, and ginger. The nuts are Continue reading

Savory Gorgonzola Cheesecake is the Star of the Party

When my husband and I hosted an annual supper last week for his freshman class at Amherst College, I served a familiar menu, one I’ve cooked for more than a decade. A vegetarian dish of rigatoni tossed in a spicy tomato sauce again anchored the meal partnered by a mixed greens salad and warm crusty bread. As usual, for dessert I set out a bowl of fresh berries and fruit along with several chocolate treats, including a chocolate caramel cake and chocolate almond shortbreads. When it came to appetizers, though, I decided to try a new opener—a savory Gorgonzola cheesecake garnished with apple wedges, toasted croutons, grapes, and some fig jam.

Right before the young people arrived, I had a moment of panic. What if this new cheesecake offered as an opener rather than a dessert was a flop. What if the students were not adventurous eaters and the dish was untouched. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry long! From the moment the group gathered around our coffee table in front of a Continue reading

Three Thanksgiving Side Dishes that Don’t Need Oven Space

 

I’ve started my Thanksgiving count-down list. This week I’m concentrating on the table, polishing silver and ironing napkins. I’ve also ordered a local turkey and am finalizing the menu. I won’t have extra oven space because my turkey, cornbread dressing, and potato gratin all call for plenty of time, so I’ve been looking for sides that don’t need to be baked or roasted. While culling my past blog posts, I discovered a beautiful dish– a colorful mélange of fall vegetables that includes diced butternut squash, brown mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts all cooked on the stove top and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano and toasted pecans. I marked “yes” to that one!

In addition I’ve decided to add a cold weather salad of tender green beans or haricots Continue reading

A Delicious Fall Appetizer Perfect for Cool Nights

Earlier this fall in a cooking class, I included the recipe for some polenta squares with Gruyère, walnuts, and fresh rosemary. In the class they were served as a side dish to racks of lamb, but later I discovered that they worked beautifully as appetizers. A few days after that class, my husband and I ended up hosting an impromptu Sunday supper for family and friends. There were ten of us and I needed a quick opener. Why not turn that delicious side dish into a starter, I reasoned! The polenta squares turned out to be the stars of the evening, and were simple to assemble well in advance.

I have loved polenta since I first tasted it prepared by Italian chefs back in the 80s. Those chefs used water and coarse meal. However, when I started making polenta, I found that replacing the water with chicken stock added another layer of flavor. Instead of coarsely Continue reading

A Decadently Rich Dessert Memory from Paris

This summer while in Paris I dined in a new restaurant, Le St Joseph, located outside the city in the suburb of La Garenne-Colombes. Chosen by my good friend, and impeccable Paris food critic, John Talbott, the bistro turned out, as they say in the Michelin guide, “to be worth the detour,” or in our case, a 30-minute cab ride.

From the beautiful cream of pea soup garnished with tiny diced feta, golden croutons, and grilled spices to a salad of roasted eggplant, fresh orange segments, and yellow tomatoes, topped with transparent goat cheese chips and toasted pepitas, everything was delicious. I remember best the dessert; a coffee panna cotta covered with a dark chocolate ganache, and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts and cookie crumbs.

Long after I returned stateside, visions of this delectable confection swirled in my mind. Panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) is a gloriously smooth custard made without eggs, bound with gelatin, and served chilled. The recipe here calls for both whole milk and heavy Continue reading

Comfort Food for Trying Times

After 9/11, I remember being at a loss for what to offer the readers of my syndicated column, “That’s Entertaining,” that I was writing back then. Who, I thought, would feel like entertaining during such a horrific time? Then it came to me: food and the thought of food restores. In particular, such comfort dishes as roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy or golden chicken pot pies can lift spirits as well as satisfy our hunger.

After all that has happened this autumn–the hurricanes that have struck our country and the Caribbean, the earthquakes in Mexico, the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and now the fires in California, I have found myself once again thinking of comfort food.

This time I’ve chosen taleggio-stuffed meatballs and spaghetti, with a spicy tomato sauce. These meatballs distinguish themselves from more traditional ones in several ways. They are prepared with ground dark meat turkey, and shaped into bite-sized spheres –around 1.5 inches in diameter. I stuff them with small cubes of creamy taleggio cheese, and then Continue reading